Bill Ford, the executive chairman of American automotive giant Ford Motor Company..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The unique lack of hierarchy in Israeli businesses, born out of shared military service, is the “spark” that creates innovation, according to Bill Ford, the executive chairman of American automotive giant Ford Motor Company.
“A lot of Western companies, which tend to be more hierarchical, can unknowingly stifle innovation,” the great-grandson of company founder Henry Ford told the Ecomotion conference in Tel Aviv on Tuesday.
“The lack of hierarchy makes Israel a really great place to start up and have your voice heard early in the process,” said Ford, marking his first visit to the country.
On Wednesday, the company is set to open an innovation center in Tel Aviv, establishing a permanent R&D presence in the city to harness Israeli technologies.
“Necessity is the mother of innovation,” said Ford. “This country started without many natural resources, having to figure out farming and water, all the way to defense systems and now through the start-up community. It’s a fantastic breeding ground for innovation.”
The Ford Motor Company entered the Israeli market for the first time in August 2016, acquiring Tel Aviv-based computer vision and machine learning company SAIPS to advance its vision for autonomous vehicles. The company invested an additional $12.5 million in SAIPS in November 2018.
“Everything about our business is changing, and it is driven by the usual things: artificial intelligence, 3D printing and autonomous driving. All these things are ultimately changing what we think of as mobility,” said Ford.
“Technology will enable a lot of wonderful things, but we need to remain mindful that technology must be to benefit each individual life and society as a whole.”
The Michigan-based company, founded in 1903, aims to have a fully autonomous vehicle in commercial operation by 2021.
The vehicle, the company says, will be a level 4-capable vehicle, in which the car can handle entire journeys without driver intervention. Ford plans to design the vehicle to operate without a steering wheel, gas or brake pedal, and emphasizes its potential use in commercial mobility services such as ride sharing and ride hailing.
To further that goal, it has announced four key investments and collaborations – in SAIPS, lidar technology company Velodyne, artificial intelligence firm Nirenberg Neuroscience LLC and city mapping platform Civil Maps.
“No company can do it alone and that’s why we need the ecosystem. So much of what is happening here will inform our future,” said Ford.
“We have had many evolutions in the automotive industry, but not revolutions. Now that’s all changing. The company that integrates technology that enhances people’s lives will be the company that wins.”
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